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For Separation of Church and State, vote Secular

August 15, 2010 – 10:28 pm94 Comments

By Gregory Storer and John August

Australia is the place to be.  We are a country of diversity, people from all over the world with a range of personal belief systems, moral codes and all are welcome.

We are a dynamic and thriving democracy.  It’s not perfect and it’s important that we all work together to ensure that all Australians are treated in an equal and fair way.  It’s important and incumbent upon us to check that nobody gets left behind.

When we look at the breakdown of population across Australia we find that just 0.4% reports themselves as Jewish, increasing by 5.2% from 1996 to 2001.  Looking at the Christian tradition the Pentecostal church has increased it’s membership by 11.4% in the same period, to be just 1% of the population.

We have a wide range of beliefs and trying to make sure that no one denomination has an undue influence in government is paramount to our on-going freedom in Australia.

Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd talking to an exclusively Christian audience as part of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Make It Count campaign, should be a concern for all of those not of a christian faith.  It shows a willingness of our leaders to pander to the whim of the religious right at the expense of others.  The notion that they would even consider talking to group of people, who in themselves only represent a small section of our Australian community shows how much the Christian movement in Australia can act as a political force.  And yet even they can’t agree with each other!

Prime Minister Gillard is a declared Atheist, but she is pragmatic enough to see that she needs to keep it relatively quiet; she doesn’t want to upset the Church folk.  When she spoke with Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby she clearly showed how important she sees the Christian lobby.

The Government funds a chaplaincy program worth over $222 million.  Gillard has announced further funding to allow extra chaplains to be employed.  This is a program that has been hijacked by Christian churches in a very inappropriate manner, so much so that the Australian Psychological Society has directly criticised it saying that untrained chaplains are dealing with complex issues that they have no training for.  If your child needs help at (a state) school, ask yourself, would you prefer a qualified counsellor or an Evangelical pastor to help?

When we look at education, we know that the Government does fund private and religious schools, but that funding is skewed towards church-based schools, so much so that the wealthiest schools get the most funding.  It would be much fairer to have a system of tax rebates, where if you choose to use a private school, you’ll get a rebate based on how much it costs to educate a child.  This ensures equity across the education system where all children are funded to the same amount, regardless of the type of school they attend.

In the Jewish News (Friday August 6th; p9) Michael Danby has a full page advertisement telling us how much the Labor Government has spent on helping protect Jewish schools.  This is money well spent in our current system. However, if we could truly separate religion and state, if we could really allow people to live as they like without fear, then the need for CCTV, fencing and guards would disappear.  That would be better for all Australians.  Much needed funding could then be diverted to helping protect everyone, instead of trying to put up barriers to keep us apart.

The only way to make sure we govern for all Australians is to ensure that our laws are based on equality for all, without the influence of religions of any sort.

The Secular Party firmly commits itself to freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  We understand that religion is here to stay, and believe that the separation of religion and state is fundamental to maintaining true democracy.  In achieving this, it will ensure the ongoing and improved welfare of all members of Jewish communities Australia-wide.

Gregory Storer and John August are the Secular Party candidates for Melbourne Ports and Wentworth respectively.

This article is part of a series Galus Australis is running for the 2010 Australian federal election whereby we publish articles by supporters of  various political parties.  Please contact us if you are interested in contributing.

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